With an unwavering mission to provide exemplary care to individuals challenged with life-limiting or chronic illness, Ohio’s Hospice employs empathic caregivers who strive to provide quality care during end-of-life for both the patients and families they serve.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt traditional processes, staff and clinicians are unable to provide the standard of care they’re accustomed to delivering. “We’re trained to provide a good death,” said Mark Curtis, palliative care APRN at Pure Healthcare, “by alleviating psychological and spiritual suffering experienced by the patient and their family.”
While it is challenging to broach new care strategies that satisfy COVID-19 regulations, it is equally challenging for clinicians unable to provide physical support. “At times, it has been devastating for all clinicians, patients and families as we have been unable to provide that very, very important tactile sense of caring,
love and compassion, such as holding a hand or giving a hug,” elaborated Curtis.
Historically, Ohio’s Hospice has offered a number of programs to support staff in a variety of wellness channels. One of these initiatives focused on managing staff fatigue, compassion fatigue and burnout in a conversational, group setting. As it became apparent that COVID-19 would extend well beyond a two-month duration, Curtis approached administration about forming a similar initiative in a virtual setting.
The Cope & Hope Group is composed of a diverse group of chaplains, social workers, bereavement counselors and psychology specialists. In its initial iteration, the group met with staff to foster conversation about struggles, both personal and professional.
One of Curtis’ most pressing aims within the structure of the group was to build resilience among staff. Curtis elaborated on this point, stating “we want to be able to be able to build resilience and assist the participants so they are better prepared to meet any challenge
s and experience success, not only during COVID-19, but over everything in life.”
Initially, the Cope & Hope Group was hosted three days a week at differing times. Given the hectic nature of staff schedules, Curtis worked with administration to reschedule the group to be held during regular staff meetings. Under this new model, members of the group are asked to provide questions or concerns they would like addressed prior to meetings, rather than arriving with presumed conversation topics.
To make the Cope & Hope Group increasingly accessible, Ohio’s Hospice plans to host town-hall-style panels that will address common questions arising from staff meetings, as well as community needs. These various panels will address needs of specific populations to include clinical staff, grieving families and the public. Sessions will be prerecorded and available on-demand on the organization’s website.
Cope & Hope Group provides staff and clinicians a new outlet, a new support system. “Through our professional training…we’re taught to just suck it up. We’re taught don’t show your emotion,” said Curtis. “Sometimes there’s a strong sense that I’m weak if I admit I have compassion fatigue, or I’m weak if I admit that I’m struggling with this.”
Curtis has been combatting this cultural ideal of emotion equating weakness throughout his career. By instituting the Cope & Hope Group, Curtis points toward acceleration of de-stigmatization of expression of emotions. “In every crisis there’s an opportunity for growth,” he said. “We are now valuing and actually encouraging people to express themselves emotionally and psychologically, which we do in the Cope & Hope Group.”
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